It's easy to say yes to a proposition, to begin a new journey, or set a new goal. With a modest level of optimism and availability in the future you can do anything.
Yet, when it comes time to put up and meet your end of the bargain many fail to do so. Whether it is failing to commit to the process, not showing up at "game-time", or quitting once you realize the commitment is much harder than you first imagined, too many people come up short.
Examples of such are everywhere:
Friends who commit to come to your party, meet you for drinks, or do anything that involves actually meeting up with you, but end up "being too tired" right when things are about to happen.
People who promise to get things done in the workplace, take on tasks for the glory of being seen as a go-getter, but find a way to need an extension or deliver sub par work.
Presidents who make promises, but....oh never mind.
You may even do a few yourself:
"I'm going to lose this weight this year - I'm going to go to the gym and eat right - I'm going to stay in on the weekends more often - I'm not going to drink as much - I'm not going to blow my money on things I don't need"
Does this sound familiar?
It should; because even if you aren't actively doing these things yourself chances are that you know someone who is, and that person continues to fall short of the things they talk about.
I've done it... a lot.
I've made the promise to my girlfriend a few times that I wouldn't drink with friends as much when I go out, but a few shots and neat whiskeys later - I'm loaded and defending the need to "have fun".
I've told people it was time for me to cut the nonsense and focus on the refinement of my diet. a couple days go by and I'm crushing a hamburger and justifying the meal as a necessary replenishment.
I've tried to cut down on my caffeine intake more times than I can count. The headaches begin, I feel like a zombie with no personality, and soon enough I'm compensating with an overload that I would not have normally needed.
I've written on my goal sheet "do cardiovascular workouts at least once a week" for a few years now. I still find reasons to skip cardio and instead just lift some more.
Being a fitness professional I'm truly embarrassed to admit these things, but vulnerability and honesty are important to growth. You have to be willing to stare your flaws in the eye and admit they are a problem if you are ever to elevate above them.
In each of these scenarios, much like the ones supposed of others above, I didn't follow through with something I said I'd do. I didn't FINISH.
Quitting is a Condition
The problem with not finishing is that you subconsciously embrace it as a normalized outcome because you don't want to feel like a fuck for failing to match your efforts to your words. Instead of taking that step back and look at how you didn't follow through, you'll find every and any reason to defer blame outwards.
The "I needed this" or "life got in the way" excuse are probably the most common ones people use to make themselves feel better. It's much easier to say these things than to admit you didn't do what it took to meat whatever words you spoke.
The second problem with failing to finish your goals is that it only supports your internal doubt hypothesis. We all have doubts about our abilities, but typically find a way to power through and be at least moderately successful in our endeavors. Yet, when you keep failing to meet your promises - then you'll expect to come up short every time you set a goal going forward.
That's no way to live. You can't expect to be successful if you keep conditioning yourself to falling short. If we are ever to realize our true potential, then we need to change this and embrace the value of finishing. I really learned this lesson tenfold this past weekend in West Virginia.
My First Spartan BEAST
Sometimes people ask you to join something they are doing. Sometimes they have an incredibly thick Australian accent and a convincing way about themselves. Sometimes they catch you on a day where you feel like you could beat McGregor and Mayweather at the same time.
That's what happened to me about four months ago when a fellow trainer, Aaron, asked me to join up with him in running a Spartan race. I had done a SPRINT inside Fenway park back in 2012 and a Tough Mudder with my clients last year so I was definitely up for it.
That's when he let me know it was going to be a BEAST, which is at least 12 miles of obstacles and running. At first I definitely had the "no big deal, we got this" face on. Then, it sank in...I'd have to train. I'd have to run...a lot.
Except I really didn't. I worked myself up to being able to run a couple of 4 milers and kind of called it a day. But, I rationalized it as only being 3 times the distance I'm used to and being a good challenge for myself. I figured my competitive nature would pull me through and I'd overlook the lack of conditioning.
Except it actually turned out to be 15.7 miles in the mountains of West Virginia, much of which was spent cutting through the woods up and down the sides of mountains. Oh, and I ended up being in the Spartan Elite class, which is hilarious considering the best males in this category finished the race in just over 2 hours.
But sure, I'll run it anyway.
On race day I foamed rolled and stretched and ran shirtless. I did crab reaches in front of the start line and had a pocket full of energy chews and sugar gels. 15.7 miles was going to be my bitch. Number 6769 was ready to rock.
The race started and I was right there with everyone in the pack, putting foot after foot as I told myself I would compete with all those dudes and excel. We wrapped around the flats and went a little over a mile before...are you fucking kidding me, a 500 foot hill at a 30 degree or so incline?
Smoked I was. Smoked I stayed.
There were walls, sandbags, a bucket of rocks through a muddy trail, and seventy plus pound log that can burn in hell until its ashes for all I care. It sliced up my shoulders and hands as I navigated down a big slope, and right back up another. Did I tell you guys yet that the entire course was elevation?
Some obstacles were cool though, a swim, throwing spears, climbing ropes, and carrying atlas stones were all challenging, but enjoyable.
What wasn't enjoyable was taking a nose dive off a down slope and landing on my hand and shoulder - leaving me with gashes on my arm and a piece of gravel sticking out of my palm. As one of my friends put it - "I did my best Superman impression off the side of a hill".
As the blood ran down my hand I kept chewing through the foot steps that added up the miles. There was crawling under barbed wire and swimming under walls. I have no idea how it didn't get infected as each palm slid across the dirt and waded through the murky water.
A quick check with the Medics led me to a preliminary diagnosis of a broken bone at the base of my hand, which certainly explained why my palm looked like there was a lemon inside it. (This has since been confirmed by multiple sources).
Oh yeah, this was mile 3 or 4.
So, I had to finish the race and do all the aforementioned obstacles with a gash across my palm (made the vertical rope climb a bit bloody), and a bone that was more sensitive than a frozen nipple.
Yeah, it was tougher than it needed to be. I sold myself short and didn't train appropriately for the race. I took a nose dive and made my hand a problem.
But I finished.
It was somewhere in mile 12 or so where I made the conscious connection between what I was doing and the lesson it held. I had hit my match in terms of conditioning. Muscles were cramping and running at a respectable pace up the mountains had all been abandoned. There was a bit more power walking than I'd like to admit.
As I made my way up another wooded mountain side, dodging thorn bushes and tree branches, all while watching to make sure I didn't make my ankle explode - it hit me.
It doesn't always matter how well you do.
Sure, we all want to do our best and should strive to exceed even our own wildest expectations. Yet, there will be good days and bad days. There will times when you are prepared and there will be times when you have no idea what the hell just hit you.
You can control whether or not you finished.
I admit had reserved myself to falling back behind the pack in that race once I had heard the top fifty were already done and I was just finishing mile 10. I switched my focus to completing the race with maximum effort. I knew I wasn't going to be lauded for some amazing time with a lack of training and preparation. My childish fantasies of beating the best in the world due to sheer awesomeness were just a puff of dust behind my heels.
But, I wasn't going to stumble to the line, and I sure as hell wasn't going to put up a DNF (did not finish). I was going to blast through that finish line and finish every obstacle, or at the very least, handle my thirty burpees as they were handed out to me.
The Value of Finishing
Finishing something sets you up for more success. Getting to the proverbial ceremony line empowers you to take on new challenges and do more. You start telling your brain about the rewards of completion instead of the regrets of failure.
Don't you want a life full of rewards and as absent of regret?
It's like being the cat in the maze during all of the important psychological studies - you know the one who works it way through only to hit a button that either buzzes them or feeds them.
Eventually the cat learns to only go to the button that makes them get food, because why the hell would it want to shock itself when it knows it has options. Side Note: Although pain and pleasure are in the same region of the brain and some of you love that shit...I'm not talking about you here ;)
Think about it:
If you knew that you could set yourself up to be fed with glory every time wouldn't you do so?
Of course you would.
You'd learn your way and make sure you always reached the end. You wouldn't get halfway there and decide to take a nap. You wouldn't turn around and give up. You'd keep working your way through whatever maze you find yourself in and tap that food button until you have food baby.
How Do You Act?
It's simple really. Commit to something and follow through. Then do it again.
Tell yourself you'll wake up 5 minutes early and make your bed and do it relentlessly.
Say yes to a date, but don't cancel because better plans came up, or because you don't feel like it - go and make the most of it.
Put your gym shoes on and walk out that door instead of laying on the couch talking yourself out of your workout.
All it takes is the willingness to set a goal and see it through the to the finish.
Start with little things that you can control, such as making the bed, or doing ten minutes of cardio. Then expand that shit out to word counts (reading or writing), races and competitions, and the willingness to put your fifth whiskey down.
It's all in your grasp. Shit will happen along the way. There might be blood and exhaustion, but it'll be worth it.
Finishing is always better than quitting - even if you don't finish as well as you'd hoped.